It’s the kilt that grabs the most attention. That bright swath of tartan -- a design that varies among family clans but also can be used to identify governing bodies, special events and even soccer teams -- is a distinctive feature of Scottish culture, but there’s more to this northern nation than its colorful plaids.
The kilt’s prominence among Scotland’s symbols is due, in large part, to the country’s love of folklore and historic preservation. There are more than 4,000 patterns recognized by the Scottish Tartans Authority, one of many societies dedicated to conservation of the national heritage. Today, traditional Highlands dress and its accompanying instrument, the bagpipes, are largely relegated to formal occasions, but other nods to a storied past -- for instance, the annual Highlands Games, feats of strength held in cities from coast to coast each summer -- are as popular as ever. And haggis, the national dish cooked as far back as the 15th century, still has a place on the Scottish supper table, even turning up as deep-fried fare for regional fast-food chains.
Scotland loves sports, from its own invention, golf, to soccer, rugby and other outdoor pursuits. Food and drink also are cornerstones of the national identity, with whiskey distilleries among Scotland’s chief tourist attractions.